Early in "Davidson on Intentionality and Externalism", Hacker writes (p.542)
In response to the current 'internalist/externalist' debate, [Davidson] has elaborated his conception of the individuation of belief, taking for granted whatever qualifications are necessary vis-a-vis the holism of belief and interpretation. I shall do likewise in expounding and evaluating his claims.This is a bluff. Hacker does no such thing.
Throughout the paper, Hacker considers something less than a strawman -- something called a "causal theory of meaning" is what is actually criticized, and Davidson has never held anything remotely like that. Davidson holds to the Quinean thesis that reference is inscrutable, for one thing. Nothing below the level of a sentence can have propositional content. Hacker seems to forget Frege's point that a word can have meaning only in the context of a sentence; he offers explanations for the meanings of words, and claims that these "meaning explanations" play some essential role in language ("What a term 'K' means is determined by what counts in a linguistic community as a correct explanation of its meaning"). Neither that Hacker offers, nor anything like it, plays such a role in language. Language does not work that way.
Not only does Hacker fail to consider that Davidson's externalism is part & parcel with the rest of "radical interpretation", but he doesn't even seem to consider that Davidson's externalism might be related to the rest of his "unified theory" -- Davidson's externalism is simply a part of "the externalism of Putnam, Burge, and Davidson". But these three are very different sorts of externalist; Burge & Davidson are particularly opposed to one another*, and Putnam isn't even a Tarskian. Hacker even gets Davidson's term of art wrong. Earlier on the same page he says that Davidson "has argued that all understanding of the speech of others involves interpretation or radical translation." "Radical translation" is Quine's schtick; Davidson denies that radical translation could suffice for understanding, and his "radical interpretation" is meant to overhaul & correct Quine's approach.
Further, Davidson does not claim that all understanding involves interpretation; for Davidson, perception is "direct", not mediated by anything which could be interpreted. Davidson does claim that something like radical interpretation is actually at work in how we understand one another, and because of the holism of the mental all propositional attitudes are -- in a sense -- tied to radical interpretation. And perception involves propositional content. But peceiving that things are thus and so is not a matter of interpreting anything; the belief strikes one straightaway, mediately merely causally (and not epistemicly) by any intermediary. Hacker gets this wrong -- he claims that "pace Davidson" understanding what someone says typically involves no interpretation. But Davidson can grant this, since one can, for instance, hear that someone is saying that things are thus-and-so.
Hacker has written a very bad paper. He evinces not the slightest comprehension of what Davidson is trying to do. Indeed, Davidson's views on intentionality are hardly even misunderstood in the paper -- for Hacker to be getting them wrong, he'd have to have something like them in view. The externalism of "Knowing One's Own Mind" and "The Myth of the Subjective" does not explain intentionality, for Davidson. Intentionality is tied to the normativity of the propositional attitudes, as shown forth by looking at what would be involved in "radical interpretation", in interpretation of a speaker with whom one initially shares no language. Hacker doesn't put any of this in view. He doesn't even look at the relevant essays. He briefly mentions "Thought and Talk", once, on page 542, but it plays no real role in the paper.
Davidson claims that "all thought and language must have a foundation in such direct historical connections [as saying "There's the moon" when the moon is in view]", but Hacker misunderstands the rhetorical force of "foundation"-talk, here. The intentionality of thought & language is not built on these "direct historical connections"; what Davidson means by his claim is simply that one condition for being able to understand a speaker is to take them as reacting to objects in an environment one shares with them -- not simply the fact that they are so reacting but the taking of them as so reacting by the interpreter is what does important work in making understanding possible. Throughout the paper, Hacker considers only a single speaker reacting to an environment, and notes that the causal facts about all this are irrelevant to the meaningfulness of language. The Davidsonian strategy of "triangulation" is nowhere present; only the causal facts, and not attributions of causal relations, are considered as possibly being what Davidson is calling our attention to.
Hacker devotes a significant portion of the paper to attacking Davidson's "swampman" thought-experiment. It is a bad thought-experiment, and Davidson abandoned it later on.
"But I confess that Swampman now embarrasses me. The reason is that science fiction stories that imagine things that never happen provide a poor testing ground for our intuitions concerning concepts like the concept of a person, or what constitutes thought. These common concepts work as well as required in the world as we know it. We have multiple criteria for applying most important concepts, and the imagined cases are ones in which these criteria, which normally go together, point in different directions. We ask what we would say in such cases? Who knows? Why should we care?”(the comment thread here has more details on the ignominious fate of the swampman argument. Looking up that quote has also reminded me of how bizarre the whole debate about empirically-existing swampmen was. Man, I love "The Valve".)
---Donald Davidson, “Interpretation: Hard in Theory, Easy in Practice”
Hacker occasionally quotes Davidson's reference to the role of "terminal elements in the conditioning process". He simply reads this phrase wrong -- Davidson means the distal causes of our beliefs, as opposed to the proximal ones, are the ones we care about in interpretation. It's an anti-Quinean point. (See "Meaning, Truth, and Evidence" for the juicy details.) Hacker reads it as referring to the "terminal elements" of the conditioning process -- speakers who are conditioned to react in certain ways. Thus he quotes Davidson's phrasing approvingly on page 545 despite denying that the "terminal elements in the conditioning process" (the objects reacted to) play a role in what people mean when they talk & think. Davidson's "terminal elements" are the things in the world that we are conditioned to react to, as is obvious when the phrase is looked at in context (page 44 in "Subjective, Intersubjective, Objective"). Hacker's "terminal elements" are "uses of words" and "explanations of meanings"; nothing like what Davidson talks about.
Hacker notes that the learning of a language is the mastering of a technique, and that the technique mastered is a normative, rule-governed one. This is entirely correct & salutary. But he notes this to oppose the characterization of the correct use of words as "the use of words geared to appropriate objects & situations". I have no idea how these notions are supposed to be opposed to one another; they strike me as entailing one another. To have mastered a technique is to react appropriately to the relevant objects & situations -- to be able to ride a bike is to be able to get on a bike, pedal, and get from point A to point B without falling off or hitting anything, etc.. All techniques are normative; to be practising an art is to be doing it well or poorly. And all techniques are ways of getting around in the world, ways of coping with various objects & situations. The skillful use of a techique is the use of a technique geared appropriately to various objects & situations, and appropriateness is a normative matter.
Some scattered marginal notes I made on the last half of the paper:
I can use words as parts of sentences to perform various speech-acts (paradigmatically, assertions). "Use a word" is not such a speech-act. I can perform various speech acts correctly or incorrectly, well or poorly; I can say things that are true or false. I can't simply "use a word", and so there are no standards for what counts as the correct or incorrect "use of a word" that are not standards for what counts as the correct performance of some speech-act or other. But it's implausible that my causal interactions with the world are independent of whether or not I perform various speech-acts correctly or incorrectly. And it's implausible that there's anything to say about what, in general, using a word correctly requires; one can do many things with words.
It is entirely possible to learn to use a word without ever encountering something like Hacker's "meaning explanations" (""to dehort" means the same as "to advise against""). "Meaning explanations" are neither sufficient for teaching someone the use of a word, nor are they necessary. One can catch on to how a word is used, as with any other practice. An other can -- sometimes -- be taught to go on as I do. Other times, not. And sometimes they can go on as I do without my having instructed them.
As Quine, who is more explicit on these matters, has written, the child ‘is being trained by successive reinforcements and extinctions to say “red” on the right occasions and those only.’ But what makes an occasion right? Causal relations are contingent and external, but the ‘relation’ of the word ‘red’ to red things, the correctness of its application to red objects and the incorrectness of its application to green or blue ones, is not a contingent but an internal relation. If the ‘stimulus explanation’ causes the child to apply the word ‘red’ (or sentence ‘This is red’) to, and only to, poppies, what shows that it has misunderstood the explanation, that it is applying the word ‘red’ incorrectly, contrary to the explanation given?Nothing does. For he has done no such thing -- his "red"/"This is red" is not to be translated as our "red"/"This is red", but as our "poppies"/"These are poppies". And what we thought was our explaining to him how to use "red" was no such thing -- we were merely chattering at him, and he's gone off on his own way. And the path he's forged for himself is a perfectly serviceable one; there's nothing wrong with tracking flowers rather than colors. We might want to "correct" the child, so that he uses "red" as we do, but this is a merely grammatical matter, on a par with enforcing proper spelling. It doesn't actually hinder understanding if one person spells idiosyncratically, so long as they're readable**. And proper spelling by no means ensures comprehensibility. The two can come apart, and generally do -- it's rare that spelling errors actually make it hard to read something which would otherwise be readable. (Incidentally, Davidson is a terrible speller; he jokes about this in "The Social Aspect of Language".)
Ostensive definition looks as if it connects language to reality, but that is an illusion. It connects spoken language with the ‘language of gestures’.There is no such language as "the language of gestures". ASL is a language; gesturing is not. Gesturing is a type of action; languages are not types of actions. In the use of onstensive definitions, it is let on that a demonstrative should be understood to be pointing to a particular something-or-other. There is nothing special about ostensive definition; in general, one clarifies how one means a term by acting in such a way that (if all goes well) the other party will catch on -- will see as you see, will understand as you understand, will catch what one intended to do, to get across, to point out. "It is human practices which give words their meaning", but not any particular ones -- it is the whole mess of life that gives our words the meanings they have; "poetically man dwells". Davidson's focus on ostension in some of his essays is a dispensable tool for arguing for his views; "I think externalism applies universally; there are connections everywhere between the world and the contents of our thoughts."
"Whether the child is using ‘Moon!’ correctly is determined by whether he uses it in accordance with the rules for its use, which are given by the generally accepted explanations of its meaning" -- generally accepted by whom? A linguistic community? Who draws the boundaries between those? Which ones do we look to when we want to ask about "meaning explanations"? (see * again)
If someone earnestly asked me to explain what "if" meant, I shouldn't have the foggiest idea what to say to them. If being able to give "explanations of meaning" is really essential to being able to use a word correctly, then I can't say what I can say. So being able to give explanations of meaning isn't essential to understanding.
If I misuse words, then I might still be entirely transparent in my muttering. A little violence to the language ain't gonna do no harm to the hermyneutical enterprise. So lack of abuse of the use of my words can't be required for understanding.
If all I do is make stupid jokes, this doesn't mean I don't understand what you're saying to me. It just means I don't care to converse about whatever it is you're boring me with. If I never respond properly, this might be grounds for judging that I don't know what I'm responding to, but it could easily be wrong.
"All that matters is whether he satisfies our ordinary criteria of understanding, viz. using words correctly, giving correct explanations of meaning, and responding appropriately (intelligently) to the utterances of others. If he does, then he uses words with ‘the right meaning’." None of this matters for understanding; these are neither sufficient nor necessary conditions. Neither does "the right meaning" matter. I can mispeachify without a hitch to your being able to catch my drift. Nobody ever laid down rules for how I can & can't misuse words without you being unable to understand me. Laying down rules doesn't include a bit where you lay down how you can break them; breaking a rule is just doing something the rules didn't cover.
So, in summary: Hacker is wrong about many things, and Davidsonian views are not considered in "Davidson on Intention & Externalism".
*Amusingly, the way Davidson characterizes Burge's position in "Knowing One's Own Mind" is very similar to how Hacker presents his own (supposedly Wittgensteinian and supposedly non-externalist) doctrines: "I reject Burge's insistence that we are bound to give a person's words the meaning they have in his linguistic community, and to interpret his propositional attitudes on the same basis..." ("Knowing One's Own Mind", p.28 in SIO)
**I am not spellchecking this post because it amuses me so to not do. For similar reasons, I've left some ungrammatical phrasing ungrammatical.